Archive | February 2012

12 of 52 – War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Cover of "War Is A Force That Gives Us Me...

Cover of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning

I just finished reading War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. How beautiful is his narration, I cannot explain it.

As a veteran war correspondent, Chris Hedges has survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza and petty thugs elevated into war heroes in the Balkans. Hedges, who is also a former divinity student, has seen war at its worst and knows too well that to those who pass through it, war can be exhilarating and even addictive: “It gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.”

Drawing on his own experience and on the literature of combat from Homer to Michael Herr, Hedges shows how war seduces not just those on the front lines but entire societies, corrupting politics, destroying culture, and perverting the most basic human desires. Mixing hard-nosed realism with profound moral and philosophical insight, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is a work of terrible power and redemptive clarity whose truths have never been more necessary.

He strings the horrors that he’s seen into beautiful passages in a way that needs to be read to fully appreciate. He uses a lot of his own experiences as well as major works of literature to showcase war  as a drug, how it destroys more than just the land. The writing style is beautiful and the content is both informative and interesting. Really glad I read it.

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11 of 52 – The Psychopath Test

I just finished reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, a Welsh journalist.

This is a story about madness. It all starts when journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness. Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths. Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power.

This book was really interesting! I tend to flip between thinking that psychiatry over-diagnoses and thinking that they’re horrifyingly correct. This was a cool exploration of psychopathy and how it’s possible that many people at the top are, in fact, psychopaths. This is something I might have to agree with, which is largely why I bought the book.

After research was done with a few hundred top CEO’s and politicians, Robert Hare found that they’re 4 times more likely to be psychopaths than the general public. Now, granted, just under 1% of the general public can be classified as psychopaths so that’s about 4% of top personalities, but it still seems a huge deal.

I do like that Ronson also talked about how psychiatry could be overstepping its bounds. He talked about the problems with over-labeling people, and how children are being wrongfully diagnosed with bipolar disorder.